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Submission on proposed Queens Wharf mooring dolphin

Tuesday 9 Oct 2018

To: Auckland Council

Application number: CST60323353

Name of submitter: Heart of the City Inc. (‘HOTC’)


  1. This is a submission on an application from Panuku Development Auckland on 13 April 2018 for resource consent to construct and operate infrastructure on and adjacent to Queens Wharf to provide for mooring of cruise ships up to 362m in length.
  2. The proposal intends to establish two mooring dolphins linked by gangways to the northern end of the wharf, protruding a total distance of close to 90m into the Waitemata Harbour.  
  3. HOTC is not a trade competitor for the purposes of section 308B of the Resource Management Act 1991.
  4. HOTC opposes the application due to it being a 35-year structure that is contrary to the Central Wharves Strategy Refresh (2017) and on the grounds of its potential to generate significant adverse effects on amenity values for public visitors to Queens Wharf.   
  5. Without prejudice, we also seek that consideration be given to consent conditions as part of any consent approval, to address the specific issues identified in our submission.


HOTC- background


  1. Heart of the City is the business association for the city centre, which includes more than 4000 commercially rated properties and 12,000+ businesses. We are committed to the growth and success of the city centre as the thriving commercial centre of the region, that is rich in culture and heritage, and is an accessible, safe and welcoming urban community.
  2. Our official boundary is shown in the map below.


  1. The City Centre is the centre of the region’s economy. It is growing at pace, with more than 120,000 people working, 45,000 residents and 60,000 students studying in the city centre, as well as buoyant growth in national and international visitors. 
  2. HOTC frequently engages and collaborates with public agencies with operational or regulatory roles in the city centre, including central government organisations and council departments and council-controlled organisations (e.g. Auckland Council’s Development Project Office and the city centre Activation team, Auckland Transport, ATEED, Panuku Development Auckland and Regional Facilities Auckland).
  3. Our association has constructively supported previous plan-making processes and consent applications relating to Queens Wharf. HOTC appreciates that cruise-ship activity generates benefits (positive effects) for businesses in the Auckland region, including the city-centre.   
  4. Our research tells us that Aucklanders value their waterfront. It is one of the city centre’s greatest assets.  
  5. Whilst we support that cruise ship facilities should be provided in the city-centre waterfront area, we are concerned that the proposed Dolphin is contrary to the agreed masterplan for Queens Wharf as part of the Central Wharves Strategy, and that it will detract from the vision for Queens Wharf as ‘the people’s wharf’. Our submission also suggests that there is potential for the proposal to generate significant (more than minor) adverse environmental effects, particularly in regard to public amenity values comprising the public’s enjoyment of Queens Wharf as a waterfront public space and the currently unencumbered access and views along the northern edge of the wharf. 
  6. HOTC considers the adverse effects merit declining approval for the consent in respect to the Dolphin structure that would occupy the coastal marine area.
  7. Without prejudice, should the consent be approved we seek that consent conditions include:
  • consent duration of 5 years or up to a maximum of 10 years only, and
  • a requirement for removal of the Dolphin structure within a reasonable period after the consent expiry, or prior to the expiry date should the Dolphin no longer be required for mooring extra-large cruise ships (e.g. due to the availability of alternative berth facilities deemed suitable by Panuku).

Reasons for submission

Cruise ship berth options assessment

  1. The applicant’s assessment of optionsstates that there is an immediacy of need for the Dolphin facilities due to 7 visits by Ovation of the Seas (348m long) and 1 visit by Queen Mary (345m long) being scheduled in the 2018/19 year, and that without adequate berths available within the port, these ships will be required to anchor in the harbour.

1 Refer application report entitled Mooring Dolphins Consideration of Options, B&A July 13 2018, p2.

  1. Auckland Council has long-standing plans for accommodating such ships through provision of permanent cruise ship facilities at Captain Cook Wharf.  HOTC supports in principle the Waterfront Plan (2012) and Central Wharves Strategy Refresh (2017), as they provide an integrated and coherent approach to how the Auckland waterfront is intended to be developed to accommodate a variety of activities and types of development over the next 20-30 years. In particular the intent that Queens Wharf be a dedicated ‘peoples wharf’ as an open public gathering place with venues for events/functions, and that Captain Cook Wharf be the location for cruise ship facilities. Queens Wharf is subject to the need to be staged with other projects such as ferry terminal changes, and a preferred re-location of cruise infrastructure on Captain Cook Wharf within the next 10 years.
  2. Whilst the current consent application acknowledges the abovementioned plans in the assessment of other matters under Part 2 of the Act, this option is dismissed on the grounds that it is subject to uncertainty and not funded in the council’s Long-term plan 2018-282. That may be, but it still remains a key element of the council’s strategic planning for the waterfront, and given its inclusion in the 2017 central Wharves Strategy Refresh, it is reasonable to expect that design concepts should be progressed by the Council in conjunction with its wholly owned Ports of Auckland Ltd. (POAL) company within the next few years. 

2 Ibid, p4

  1. We note that the application does not make reference to the POAL’s 30 year masterplan in the list of ‘other matters’, but the Ports own plan3 should be regarded as relevant in the context of the assessment of options for locating cruise ship facilities.  The POAL masterplan indicates that Captain Cook Wharf is planned to be vacated for cargo and vehicle storage purposes by 2022, subject to alternative facilities being provided on Bledisloe Wharf by then.

3 refer

  1. Subject to agreements being reached between the council and POAL for re-purposing of Captain Cook Wharf for cruise ship facilities, funding could potentially be provided for within the first five year period of the council’s next Long-term plan (LTP 2021-31). 
  2. There is a high degree of uncertainty expressed in the application as to the level of future demand for use of the proposed Queens Wharf Dolphin.  We note that the Economic Assessment report (Appendix 20 to the application) adopts a 10 year period for estimating economic benefits given a high level of uncertainty beyond that, and finds that the investment will have a high enough positive net present value to proceed on that basis. This reflects that extra-large cruise ships currently account for a relatively minor share of the cruise ship market, and forward bookings to visit Auckland are usually only known 1-1.5 years in advance.
  3. Queens Wharf and the Dolphin are also subject to uncertainty associated with the need to seek a consent for occupation of the CMCA prior to the expiry of the POAL s384A Coastal Permit by 2026.
  4. Previous reports to the Council as recent as late 20174 suggested the Dolphin would only be required for 10 years as an ‘interim’ use, but now the consent application seeks a duration of 35 years “in order to provide for the duration of time until alternative arrangements can be established for berthing of cruise ships”5.  

4 Refer Auckland Council Planning Committee Agenda 5 Sept. 2017.

5 Refer Queens Wharf Cruise Ship Berth Upgrade Assessment of Environmental Effects. August 2018 B&A Ref:15364, p20.

  1. HOTC regards the proposed Dolphin as an expedient option that reflects short-term thinking.  It would essentially be an ad hoc addition to Queens Wharf and whilst it would allow time for the applicant to see if berthage demand by extra-large cruise ships will be sufficient to prove the commercial case for a permanent solution, at the same time, if a 35 year consent duration for occupation of the harbour is granted, it will act as a disincentive to progress the Captain Cook Wharf option or any alternative solution. 
  2. HOTC seeks that the Council commit to implementing its adopted strategy by appropriately prioritising and sequencing its planned waterfront development projects, and avoid diverting funding to short-term fixes.  In this case the Dolphin will detract from the vision for Queens Wharf as ‘the people’s wharf’.  It will not enhance the wharf as a public destination; on the contrary, it will make the wharf less inviting to the public and be a setback for realising the vision of the council’s Waterfront Plan and Central Wharves Strategy.  It is certainly not consistent with the council’s and government’s reasons for purchasing Queens Wharf from POAL several years ago.
  3. Several factors are outlined above as to why an alternative to the Queens Wharf Dolphin could be (and should be) feasible to resolve within the next 5-10 years.  For those reasons HOTC considers it would be fair and reasonable that if the consent for the Dolphin structure is approved, consent duration should be limited to 5 years or up to a maximum 10 years. 
  4. Our specific concerns with the proposal’s adverse environmental effects relate to amenity values and restrictions on public enjoyment and use of Queens Wharf, as outlined below in the context of the RMA and Auckland Unitary Plan. 


Assessment under the Auckland Unitary Plan -Amenity issues

  1. The particular provisions of the Auckland Unitary Plan -Operative in Part (AUP) that are relevant to HOTC’s submission are shown in extracted form below:
  2.  I202 Central Wharves Precinct6:


  1. I202.1. Precinct description

The precinct is characterised by its active water edge maritime passenger operations (including cruise ships), marine and port activities, proximity to the city core, and areas of low-rise character buildings.

Captain Cook Wharf currently forms part of the working port infrastructure where public access is necessarily restricted. It may be appropriate to provide for public access and development if this wharf is no longer required for port operations.

The purpose of the precinct is to provide for ongoing use for maritime passenger operations and other marine and port activities, and in parts of the precinct to provide an environment and an appropriate scale of built form for public activities, marine facilities and events, while maintaining public access to the waterfront and providing for sustainable land and coastal management within the precinct.


  1. I202.2. Objectives

(1) A world-class visitor destination that is recognised for its quality buildings, public open spaces, recreational opportunities, marine and port activities and facilities and events.

(4) Public wharf space developed and used for predominantly public activities for the benefit of the people of Auckland and visitors while also enabling marine and port activities and maritime passenger operations.

  1. I202.3. Policies

(1) Enable the efficient operation and development of the precinct by providing for activities which have a functional need to locate in or adjacent to the coastal marine area, including maritime passenger operations, marine and port activities and maritime passenger facilities including for the cruise ship industry

(3) Enable a diverse range of activities while:

  1. avoiding, mitigating or remedying potential adverse effects in an integrated manner across mean high water springs, including reverse sensitivity effects on marine and port activities and maritime passenger operations; and
  2. maintaining and enhancing public access to the water’s edge, except where public access must be excluded for safety, security, biosecurity, Customs, maintenance or operational purposes.

(4)Provide for continued use of all berthage areas adjacent to public open spaces for maritime passenger operations and other marine and port activities.

(6) Encourage the development of a diverse range of high-quality visitor experiences including promenading, coastal recreation and temporary activities.

(7) Provide for a network of different-sized public open spaces in key locations along the water’s edge to cater for a range of recreational opportunities and provide vantage points

(8) Enable public access and events along Queens Wharf in a manner that does not constrain or conflict with the use of this wharf as a terminal and berthage for maritime passenger operations, cruise ship operations, other visiting non-cargo vessels and public transport facilities.

(11) Limit the loss of identified significant public views from the city to the harbour and adjacent landscape features.

  1. Table I202.4.1 Activity table

A (A36) ‘Coastal marine area structures or buildings not otherwise provided for’ require Discretionary Consent.

  1. I202.6. Standards

A  I202.6.1.9. Public spaces and accessways

Purpose: manage public spaces and accessways to achieve Policy I202.3(9) of the Central Wharves Precinct and Policy H8.3(37) of the Business – City Centre Zone.

(1) Public accessways must be provided at ground level around the perimeter of Princes Wharf and Queens Wharf. The public accessways must have minimum dimensions as follows:

(a) Princes Wharf: 6m

(b) Queens Wharf: 10m

(2) All public accessways within and around Princes Wharf and Queens Wharf must be available to the public at all times except where it is necessary to temporarily restrict access for security, safety or operational needs associated with marine and port activities or temporary events permitted under the Auckland-wide temporary activity rules or by resource consent.

  1. F2. Coastal – General Coastal Marine Zone

  1. F2.1. Zone description

The purpose of the Coastal – General Coastal Marine Zone is to provide for use and development in the coastal marine area, in particular those forms of use and development that have a functional or operational need to be undertaken or located in the coastal marine area, while:

  • maintaining and enhancing public access, open space, recreational use, amenity values, and access to and along the coastal marine area;
  1. F2.14. Use, development and occupation in the coastal marine area

F2.14.2. Objectives

(1) The high public value of the coast and coastal marine area as open space area with free public access is maintained

(3) Limit exclusive occupation to where it can be demonstrated it is necessary for the efficient functioning of the use and development or is needed for public safety, and any loss of public access and use as a result is minimised and mitigation is provided where practicable.

  1. F2.14.3. Policies

(4) Avoid granting rights of exclusive occupation in areas with high public use and where it will have a significant adverse effect on public access and recreational use of the common marine and coastal area.

(11) Determine the appropriate duration for granting rights of occupation having regard to the:

(a) extent of public use and access of the area and the impact of restrictions on the loss of public use and access;

(b) level of investment in the development and need for security of tenure to ensure its financial and economic viability and/or long term public benefit;

  1. F2.23. Assessment – restricted discretionary activities

       F2.23.1. Matters of discretion

The Council will restrict its discretion to all of the following matters when assessing a restricted discretionary resource consent application:

(1) all restricted discretionary activities:

(d) effects on public access, navigation and safety;

(e) effects on existing uses and activities (including significant infrastructure);

(2) Additional matters for:

(d) structures in the coastal marine area:

(i) effects on views to and from the surrounding area, and visual amenity effects from the presence of the structure.

  1. F2.23.2. Assessment criteria

The Council will consider the relevant assessment criteria for restricted discretionary activities from the list below:

(1) all restricted discretionary activities:

(d) effects on public access, navigation and safety:

(iv) whether the layout of structures and activities enhances public access, including pedestrian access, to the coastline and particularly to any areas of public open space; and

(v) whether any loss of public access to, along and within the coastal marine area has been mitigated, including through provision of facilities such as public boat ramps, lookout platforms, and alternative access.

(e) effects on existing uses and activities (including infrastructure):

(i)  whether proposals avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse effects on existing activities as far as practicable, taking into account both activities in the coastal marine area and on adjacent land;

  1. The applicant’s Assessment of Effects report7 describes the current situation of Queens Wharf in terms of the extent of public access and use, as follows:

The majority of the wharf is accessible by the public, with provision maintained for areas of the wharf to be closed to public access for operational purposes.  As noted in the letter from POAL included in Appendix 20, Customs New Zealand designates parts of Queens Wharf, Shed 10 and the Cloud (on occasion) as customs-controlled areas on days when a cruise vessel is booked onto Queens Wharf East or Queens Wharf West. At these times, public access to these designated areas is restricted. The in-situ fence along the eastern edge of Queens Wharf is able to be opened when there is no operational need to restrict access.  The Perimeter Strip License between the owners of Queens Wharf and POAL provides for exclusive access to the eastern and western edges of Queens Wharf on days when ships are booked. 

7 Refer Queens Wharf Cruise Ship Berth Upgrade Assessment of Environmental Effects. August 2018 B&A Ref:15364.

  1. HOTC does not agree with the Assessment of Effects report’s suggestion that the Dolphin would just be a ‘more of the same’ addition to the wharf’s facilities:

As discussed in the Natural Character, Landscape and Visual Amenity Effects Assessment attached as Appendix 7 the proposed new mooring dolphins and gangway have been designed to fit with the existing character of the waterfront as a working waterfront and port, utilising similar materials as are utilised within the existing waterfront structures. The mooring dolphins and gangway also operate in a similar way, having a primary function as a port facility mooring structure, while allowing public access onto the first 36m of the gangway access when not required to be closed for operational use, as is the case with the existing operation of Queens Wharf.

  1. Having regard to the need to assess discretionary activities against the AUP objectives and policies (namely AUP Objectives I202.2 (4) and F2.14.2 and related policies above), HOTC submits that the Dolphin would reduce the extent to which “public wharf space [is] developed and used for predominantly public activities for the benefit of the people of Auckland and visitors,” in favour of greater enabling of marine and port related use of the public wharf”.  The Dolphin would in effect take Queens Wharf two steps back by restoring an element of visual appearance as a piece of working waterfront and port infrastructure, as it was characterised when the POAL owned it. 
  2. In terms of assessment under section 104(1) of the Act, HOTC is concerned that the applicant’s Assessment of Effects report8 is inadequate and incomplete in its assessment of effects on amenity values.  The report relies on the ‘Appendix 7’ assessment of visual amenity impacts based on various vantage points around the Waitemata Harbour, including from Queens Wharf itself.  As a final conclusion to the assessment of the visual effects, the report states (in relation to viewpoints from locations on Queens Wharf and Princes Wharf):

8 Ibid.

The proposal would substantially change the sense of openness and the character of the uninterrupted harbour waters from these viewpoints and result in adverse effects ranging from moderate to moderate-high (i.e. effects are considered more than ‘minor’ but not ‘significant’).

  1. HOTC considers that the viewpoint from the end of Queens Wharf is of primary value given that the western side will be obstructed by the planned ferry terminal works, and the eastern side is already frequently obstructed by berthed cruise ships, and would be even more so by extra-large cruise ships.
  2. Large numbers of people access Queens Wharf, comprising passengers from the nearby ferry terminal, train and bus passengers, workers, residents and students in the surrounding city-centre, as well as visitors from across Auckland and international tourists.  While they can currently access the Queens Wharf event venues (when not in use as cruise-ship facilities) or the container village, the addition of the Dolphin and mooring of extra-large cruise ships would mean that public visitors will more frequently find they are not welcome to be along the eastern edge, or enter Shed 10; nor enter the Dolphin extension at the northern end of the wharf. 
  3. And even when there are no cruise ships moored, the visitor’s experience of the northern edge will be of interrupted views of the harbour owing to the presence of the 90m Dolphin extension which is as long as the wharf is wide.  In effect, the public realm will no longer go to the edge of the wharf, and the public will have partial access such that they can choose to walk up to 36m along the 2.3m wide gangway, but then confront a barrier stopping them from proceeding along the remaining 44m length of the structure. 
  4. Furthermore, the Assessment of Effects and Appendix 7 reports reach the conclusion that effects are not significant without providing any indication of the numbers of people or the frequency with which people will likely experience impacts on access or impaired views of the harbour. We note that there is a public display board on Queens Wharf that suggests that 1.125 million visitors visit Queens Wharf per annum.  Given that Panuku is responsible for managing Queens Wharf there should be an ability to provide data on its use in order to more accurately assess the public amenity impacts. This is an omission that undermines the conclusions made in the Assessment of Effects report.
  5. HOTC has estimated the current baseline volume of cruise ship ‘days in port’ at Queens Wharf, relying on publically available data.  A report prepared for the NZ Cruise Association9 indicates bookings for 2018/19 of a total 185 cruise ship visits to Auckland (at Queens Wharf, Princes Wharf and a small number at other locations).  POAL’s schedule of current bookings10 indicates around 70% are expected to be at Queens Wharf.  Most ship visits are for 1 day duration implying occupation of berthing space at Queens Wharf would occur for approximately 130 days of the year (over a third of a calendar year).

9 Market Economics Aug. 2017 Cruise Tourism’s Contribution to the NZ Economy.

10 Refer

  1. The applicant’s Appendix 20 ‘Economic Assessment’ report11 contains projections of visits by extra-large vessels as the basis for estimating economic benefit of use of the Dolphin facility. The alternative ‘low to high’ scenarios are restated in Table 1:

11 Market Economics August 2018: Economic Assessment of Alternatives for Auckland Cruise Terminal –Costs and Benefits, prepared for Panuku.


Table 1: Projections of extra-large cruise ship visits to Auckland













Conservative Future











Likely Future











High Future











Source: Market Economics 2018


  1. The applicant’s reports do not consider the cumulative effect of adding extra-large cruise ship visits to the baseline. In our assessment, and without allowing for any growth in baseline visits by ‘non- extra-large’ cruise ships over the 10 year period, the total volume of cruise ship visits at Queens Wharf could increase from 130 to 146-158 days of the year (based on the Conservative and High Future scenarios at 2028-29 in Table 1). 
  2. That is equivalent to 40-43% of a full calendar year, but given the cruise ship season is typically concentrated in the three month summer period of December to February (total 90 days), a much higher rate of occupation would occur over those months.  For example, a cruise ship could be berthed at Queens Wharf for most hours of every day over summer, if 90 out of the 146-158 visits occur then.  That would imply no ability to open up public access to the eastern edge of the wharf or Shed 10 during summer months. 
  3. While the Dolphin could still be accessed if the cruise ship is not an extra-large one, if the visits by extra-large ships all occur in the summer period, the projections imply they could occupy 16 – 28 days on their own by 2024-25 (i.e. 18-31% of the summer period).  Leaving the rest of the summer days to be occupied by non extra-large cruise ships.
  4. The cumulative effect from the addition of the Dolphin to Queens Wharf will be that the visitor experience at the northern and eastern edge of Queens Wharf will increasingly include a sense of exclusion as cruise ships dominate use of the wharf for more days of the year.  Even when there are no cruise ships berthed, the public experience of the Dolphin would be similar to looking over/through a large private jetty or gated marina pier, where only those involved in mooring a cruise ship or maintaining the Dolphin can proceed to walk to the true end of Queens Wharf. The Dolphin would in effect introduce a ‘not welcome’ sign at the end of the wharf.
  5. In conclusion, HOTC does not agree that the public’s ability to enter the Dolphin sometimes and only to a partial extent, should be accepted as an adequate form of mitigation for the increased restrictions on public access and loss of amenity generated by the Dolphin.  By enhancing the functionality of Queens Wharf to accommodate a larger scale of cruise ship activity, the Dolphin would also diminish the amenity value of Queens Wharf as a major public space destination in close proximity to a very large day-time and night time population. The partially obstructed views of the harbour and restricted access at the northern end of Queens Wharf will make it less inviting and inferior in public amenity terms compared to the current state.
  6. In regards to the claimed economic benefits of the Dolphin, these should be put alongside the negative public amenity impacts (for which no allowance is made in monetary terms in the Appendix 20 ‘Economic Assessment’ report).  That report estimates the construction and use of the Dolphin will generate a direct aggregate contribution to GDP of at least $6.8m to $39.5m per annum over a 10 year period (the range corresponding to the Conservative and High Future scenarios above).  Such benefits will be spread across a broad base with the likelihood that the average benefit per business across the region will be modest at best and quite possibly no more than minor.  
  7. Similarly, the adverse public amenity impacts will be spread over the purported baseline of 1.125 million annual visitors to Queens Wharf (which will increase as Auckland’s population and visitor numbers grow).  Even if the effects on the average visitor experience are assessed to be minor to moderate, the aggregate impact will be significant.  In simple terms the estimated GDP impacts are equivalent to $6.00 to $35.00 per visitor.  The public have not been asked whether they would be willing to forego such benefits in order to retain Queens Wharf as an accessible public space, but those dollar amounts do not provide a compelling basis for thinking the value of the Dolphin clearly outweighs the aggregate impacts on public access and amenity.



Decision sought


  1. HOTC seeks the following decision from the consent authority:


  1. That the resource consent for the Dolphin infrastructure be declined on the basis that it is a 35-year structure that is contrary to the Central Wharves Strategy (2017) and the AUP’s objectives and policies in the Central Wharves Precinct and General Coastal Marine Zone, and that it has significant potential adverse effects on amenity values which cannot be adequately avoided or mitigated;
  2. That in the event of any approval of consent, conditions be included as follows:

i. consent duration for the Dolphin structure be 5 years or up to a maximum of 10 years, and;

ii. a requirement for removal of the Dolphin structure within a reasonable period after the consent expiry, or prior to the expiry date should the Dolphin no longer be required for mooring extra-large cruise ships (e.g. due to the availability of alternative berth facilities deemed suitable by Panuku);

iii. such further and/or consequential relief to address the matters raised in this submission.  


  1. HOTC wishes to attend the consent hearing to speak in relation to the above submission.


Dated this 8th day of October 2018

Viv Beck

Chief Executive



Address of service of submitter:

Heart of the City

PO  Box 105 331

Auckland 1143